Surprise: A legendary San Francisco restaurant replaced tipping with a "fair wage" surcharge and now its waiters are going broke
· Aug 5, 2022 ·

In the annals of "predictable stuff everyone could have foreseen would happen," this has to be among the most predictable and foreseen:

When the legendary San Francisco restaurant [Zuni's Cafe] made headlines last year with its decision to replace tips with a 20% automatic "fair wage" surcharge, the goal was to raise wages for the lowest-paid workers in the kitchen — an acknowledgment that every employee who helps make Zuni's chicken deserves to earn enough to live in the Bay Area. While hailed by many as an optimistic shift in the industry, the move has sparked tensions within the restaurant.

Zuni servers, while supportive of the ethos driving the new model — balancing historic inequities between the kitchen and front-of-house staff — now say they're struggling to make ends meet without taking home more in tips. Their frustration has reached the point of discussing a walkout or unionizing to put pressure on Zuni. Because of server pushback, the restaurant is discussing potential changes to the model, owner Gilbert Pilgram said. But returning to tips is "not on the table," he said.

Yeah a word of advice for any servers still hanging around Zuni's:

Look, it's actually not at all a bad policy to try and get some extra wages for the back-of-the-house staff. Those guys work their butts off, too, yet in general they'll make considerably less than the servers working the front.

Still, tipping should be allowed and servers should get the vast majority of tips that come through the restaurant. Why? Because waitstaffing is among the most difficult and unpleasant entry-level jobs in the economy.

  • You have to be on your feet for hours and hours at a time. It's hot, sweaty, tiring work.
  • You have to remember five dozen different things at the drop of a hat. What are the specials? Is there any cilantro in the pozole? Can I substitute baked chicken for the pork chop?
  • You very often have to deal with surly, grouchy, picky customers who are angry at you for things that aren't your fault.
  • You have to do all of this while everyone else is enjoying their dinners right in front of you.

So, yes, waiters and waitresses have the hardest job in the restaurant. No doubt. You should leave them big tips if they've been good to you during your meal.

And restaurants that are dumb enough to take away tips should reinstate them pronto.

P.S. Now check out our latest video 👇

Keep up with our latest videos — Subscribe to our YouTube channel!


There are 51 comments on this article.

Ready to join the conversation? Start your free trial today.

Access comments and our fully-featured social platform, completely free of charge.

Sign up Now
App screenshot

You must signup or login to view or post comments on this article.